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One Grain Exporter Reaches Labor Deal; Picket Lines At Another

There are several new developments Wednesday in a long-running labor dispute between unionized longshoremen and Northwest grain terminal operators. One grain exporter announced it reached a contract agreement, while another locked out its union workers after discovering what it called sabotage.

Picket lines sprung up almost immediately in front of the United Grain terminal at the Port of Vancouver, Washington. This, after the terminal operator notified the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4 of a lock out.

The company president said he acted in response to two recent incidents of equipment sabotage. A retired FBI agent hired by United Grain fingered a union negotiator as the culprit. A longshore union spokeswoman accuses the company of "fabricating" the story as an excuse to bring in non-union replacement workers.

Meanwhile, the longshore union reached a tentative five-year labor pact covering three other export terminals. Those are located in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland and are operated by a joint venture called TEMCO. Neither side provided details of the new contract.

The settlement with TEMCO means the majority of Northwest grain export terminals now have up-to-date labor agreements. Three companies with terminals in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle remain in a standoff.

Together, the nine terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound handle nearly half of the nation's wheat exports.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.